Tag Archives: Las Vegas

Las Vegas’ Version of the Recession

22 Sep

Last week my work travels took me back to Las Vegas for the first time in nearly two years. Some of you may know I moved from Las Vegas to Buffalo in the summer of 2007. At the time, Buffalo was the anti-Vegas: green, wet, and economically depressed. But since then, we’ve had the Great Recession, and while Las Vegas and Buffalo still reside at the opposite ends of national surveys, they now have switched positions. Buffalo is the #4 booming metro in the country (thanks, Buffalo News, for catching up – didn’t I say that weeks ago?), and the only lists Las Vegas is leading are for unemployment and housing decline.

So, on my trip back, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Empty casinos? Vast neighborhoods of abandoned houses? I still own a house in Vegas I could never sell (anyone want to buy a house at 2006 prices? Anyone?). While I rent my house out, I had visions of it being the only occupied house on the block, surrounded by foreclosures. While at the peak, 7000 people a month moved to Vegas, now 1000 a month leave. I half expected an empty Interstate 15, traffic eased, and Buffalonian type talk from locals about how nice it is to have an easy commute.

I should have known better. I know a housing contractor in Buffalo who has a brother in Raleigh, North Carolina doing the same job. When I asked him how his brother was doing in the Great Recession, he responded, “His says North Carolina in the bust is the same as Buffalo during a boom.” The same applies for Vegas.

The traffic still snarls. The lines are still long. Money is still being lost. Skycranes still fill the air along the Strip. At first blush, everything looks fine.

Then you notice that none of the skycranes are moving. And there are no construction workers. Anywhere (except I-15, which is still being torn up and is a mess).

I stayed on the north end of the Strip. Across from my hotel was the almost-completed Fontainbleau.

Alllmmmooosssttt ttthhheeerrreee . . . .

Alllmmmooosssttt ttthhheeerrreee . . . .

Partially closed in, it’ll look beautiful if and when completed.

And if you think the Buffalo Creek Casino is a monument to half realized dreams, check out the almost-Echelon of Boyd Gaming.

Vegas sized Seneca Gaming-type FAIL

Vegas sized Seneca Gaming-type FAIL

What should have employed tens of thousands now sits baking in the sun.

City Center, the massive casino/hotel/condo complex that offers three “Lifestyle Options,” is actually going to open in December . . . late, and smaller than originally planned. The city is collectively holding its breath for the influx of jobs this will create.

Not gonna look quite like that . . .

Not gonna look quite like that . . .

Through the building adversity, Vegas is holding up shockingly well. If you aren’t a local (which I surprised myself by claiming to still be,  when locals there ask), or regular customer, you wouldn’t notice the changes. The Rio Seafood Buffet has a 15 minute wait, not 30. La Reve, the Cirque-esque show at the Wynn, was sold out for the performance we went to . . . but only by offering Buy 1, Get 1 ticket deals. Some high stakes rooms in some casinos are closed. And we easily got in to both TAO at the Venetian, and Parasol Down at the Wynn – two feats one rarely accomplishes in the same weekend.

The crowds are still huge, just not ridiculously huge. As one former Wynn marketing executive told me “The casinos are full, but what are people paying? $60 a night doesn’t meet the casino’s ROI price point.”

Las Vegas is the kind of place that need not exist. Whether you consider it a vacation paradise or a monument to our world’s greed and corruption, it is still only as big and bright as our excess can provide. Frugality is Vegas’ enemy. The Great Recession has dimmed Vegas’ lights, but not snuffed them out. And I don’t think it will.

Las Vegas

15 Feb

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A few things:

1. The Venetian was very nice indeed, but next time I’d definitely stay at the Wynn. The Wynn is to my mind the creme de la creme of Strip resorts.

2. I don’t gamble. It’s not my thing. I’d rather drop quarters in an arcade game. But I find Vegas fun for the walking, the shopping, and the dining. We didn’t get to any shows, but only because we didn’t have time.

3. In-N-Out Burger is not the best hamburger I’ve ever had. It is, however, the best fast food I’ve ever had.

4. The dinner at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon was sublime. A dinner the next evening at B&B, owned by Lydia Bastianich’s son and Mario Batali, was salty and not that memorable. Dinner at Okada at the Wynn was excellent.

5. Despite what I said in #2, the shopping is also frustrating because if I can fit in it, I can’t afford it, and if I can afford it, I don’t fit in it. Also, the “our ceiling looks like a sky” meme started by Caesar’s and imitated by the Venetian and Planet Hollywood is a bit played out.

6. Red Rock Canyon and Hoover Dam were awesome.

7. I’d have liked to have seen the Beatles show at the Mirage, the Wayne Brady show at the Venetian, or the Penn & Teller show at the Rio. We didn’t have time for any of them. Next time.

8. Southwest Airlines is generally awesome.

I hadn’t been there in 10 years and it’s changed a lot. It’ll be interesting to go back and see the City Center project when it’s done.

Vegas Food Pr0n

12 Feb

Last night, I Tweeted a simply amazing dinner we enjoyed at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand. Robuchon is a Michelin-starred chef, and this particular place has one Michelin star – he has another restaurant at MGM Grand, which boasts three stars.

Here are some pictures from that meal and from the rest of the day:

Foie gras stuffed duck:

Foie gras ravioli in broth with herbs:

Maine lobster in tomato sauce:

Smoked salmon gelee with wasabi cream:

Oh, and for lunch, I tried a 2×3 at In-N-Out Burger: